THE STEWARDESSES (1969/1971) Blu-ray
Director: Allan Silliphant
Kino Lorber/Jezebel

With the promise of images popping out from the screen and into your lap, three-dimensional movies were a revolutionary fad that just never wanted to go away. At the most productive era, the early 1950s gave us a number of gimmicky 3-D Hollywood efforts (both good and dreadful), but the trend was pretty much eradicated with the advent of Cinemascope. The 1960s would only bring a small handful of 3-D releases, but later on in the decade with the MPAA ratings system in full swing, sex on the big screen was a hot commodity and 3-D would again make a big comeback. Believe it or not, the cheaply made sexploiter THE STEWARDESSES became the highest grossing 3-D film in history and despite its initial X rating, had mainstream audiences lining up in droves to see it in all its perverse glory.

There’s not much of a plot to THE STEWARDESSES. On what seems to be a single given night, a number of young, attractive airline hostesses spend their layover time in various sexual shenanigans. One girl gets stoned and proceeds to hump a lamp (in the form of a Greek statue head) in a laughable attempt at kinky psychedelia, two babes remove each other’s threads and experiment with lesbianism (one of them a novice, the other a seasoned vet), and a studly pilot (movie make-up artist William Condos, here billed as “William Basil”) and a returning Vietnam soldier easily charm their way into the nether regions of the promiscuous flight attendants. The closest thing to an actual plotline has one pretty blonde stewardess (Christina Hart, JOHNNY FIRECLOUD, HELTER SKELTER) romantically latching on to a handsome passenger (Michael Garrett, aka Ronald South), who works in commercial advertising, in the hopes of furthering her career as an actress. The result of this relationship ends the film on a surprisingly dark note, as it’s played rather lightheartedly throughout until this unusual climax.

Only in a decade known for its frivolous, non politically-correct outlook could an independent movie like THE STEWARDESS become a major box office draw, but that’s part of the reason why we miss the 1970s so much. There were many, many sexploitation pictures made during this period, most of them better than THE STEWARDESSES, but it’s the 3-D gimmick as well as a surprisingly sophisticated and enticing advertising campaign that helped the film make back its initial investment manifold. The history of THE STEWARDESSES is quite interesting, as it actually played in theaters for over two consecutive years. Initially released in San Francisco in 1969, the film soon garnished a favorable buzz and a notable reputation from the raincoat crowd. Producer/director Allan Silliphant then decided to shoot new scenes and add changes to the film, resulting in a number of versions. Never being a porn film, it eventually got the “R” rating (the original “X” wasn’t the same back in these days, remember, MIDNIGHT COWBOY was originally rated “X”) and the version seen widely in 1971 (and represented on this Blu-ray release) became number one at the box office, out-grossing mainstream Oscar-nominated Hollywood fare.

THE STEWARDESSES is no more than a string of typical bedroom softcore sex loops and vignettes which are only meant to utilize the 3-D effect, and these proceedings are practically null without them. Some of the best of these are a woman’s feet sticking up into the air from underneath her love-making partner, a sexy pool shark’s cue stick thrust forward and the neck of a longhaired rock musician’s bass protruding from the screen. You also get to ride on a roller coaster and a retro amusement park haunted house for good measure! The cast is mostly made up of no-names, but the standout star (at least in terms of looks and personality) is the glamorously perky Christina Hart. In the early 1970s, the pretty and shapely blonde could be seen in R-rated drive-in smut like THE ROOMMATES and GAMES GIRL PLAY, while at the same time you could catch her in prime time dramas like “Ironside” and “The Rookies” and Saturday morning wholesomeness like “Shazam!”. Only in the 1970s! Those familiar with exploitation films will recognize cutie Monica Gayle (SWITCHBLADE SISTERS) here meditating in the nude whilst a background of other undressed beauties scatter about. Also in the cast are Donna Stanley from Ed Woods’s TAKE IT OUT ON TRADE (which also featured Monica Gayle) and Suzanne Fields, the heroine of FLESH GORDON and many other 1970s hardcore romps.

In 2009, a few years before the HD revolution, Shout! Factory released THE STEWARDESSES on DVD in a package that included 3-D versions (the old-fashioned kind needing the red and blue glasses) in both black & white and color, as well as the flat version. Kino Lorber and Jezebel are now presenting the film in 3-D (as well as 2-D) in a new restoration by Daniel L. Symmes and Sabucat Productions of the 1971 93-minute version. We are not able to screen the 3-D version since we only have a standard setup at present, but here’s the rundown on the 2-D version: it’s presented in 1080p in a full frame 1.33:1 which adheres to the original Academy ratio (and the claustrophobic shooting style). Detail is nice, colors are bold (with a few inconsistent shots) and grain is healthy and filmic. The image is mostly clean, with scattered blemishes and other slight markings. The audio is presented in a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 track and sounds just fine, with clear dialogue and sound effects, and the music also having nice distinctness to it. There are no subtitle options.

Shout! Factory’s 2-DVD edition of THE STEWARDESSES had interviews with a number of people involved with the film, including Allan Silliphant and Christina Hart. There are no featurettes of the sort here, but included is a 3-D softcore short subject (also viewable in 2-D) from 1977 called EXPERIMENTS IN LOVE. Running 28 minutes, it features Linda Gordon and Mariwin Roberts (JAILBAIT BABYSITTER) as two women experimenting with 3-D filming techniques in a futuristic studio adorned with classic 3-D movies posters (icluding INFERNO and THE CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON) and a supercomputer with a Japanese accent (and it likes to pinch and fondle the two girls' naughty parts). Both actresses are gorgeous and are either almost naked or totally nude for the duration, and both make it with the hunky gardener played by Michael Stapp (aka Mike Ranger, DRACULA SUCKS). Rounding out the extras on the Blu-ray is the original theatrical flat trailer for THE STEWARDESSES. (George R. Reis)